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Watch out with that Central Heating


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Posted (edited)

There is light shining through where there shouldn’t be. A sad story of, the humans were warm, so warm and dry that the instrument has just under a 3mm bow in it! A cautionary tale for all - your Victorian instrument is probably best and most happy around 55% relative humidity. Hygrometer = cheap, Removing all the springs, pads, action and making a new sound board = expensive! The culprit - central heating!

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Edited by John Dipper
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  • John Dipper changed the title to Watch out with that Central Heating

I would say wise advice; although I am lucky compared, having a few gas fires, no central heating, and knowing about woodwork through doing wood carving, and the like; so I have heard about problems with central heating on wood generally.

Some people claim that by placing bowl of water in a room it  helps to stave off that dry atmosphere ( but cannot vouch for this myself).

I have rooms full of wooden items, and they are fine because there is no central heating at all. Of course in colder weather you notice more, but your woodwork is kept more stable as result of there being less dry air circulating.

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As per recent postings I've made, John, I couldn't agree more - I'm now playing my wonderful Irish Concertina company Eiru for what feels like the first time, after a few months of torture that was brought on by extreme changes in temperature and humidity. After numerous tinkerings and such it feels like it suddenly came into it's own with a little warm weather here in Ohio, after a brutal winter (during which it was shipped over from Dublin, via who knows where..). Anyway, yes, the lesson is to pay attention to humidity - which is probably beneficial to humans also.. Hope you're able to fully restore your instrument, I'm still amazed at how my own seemed to recover itself with just a little help from me and nature; my wife mentioned to me last night how it sounds like she thought it should all along...

All the best,

Ruairi

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PS Also, Simon, I did go through a routine of boiling a pot of water and leaving it in the room where I keep my instruments, but I honestly don't know how much difference it made; I feel like it helped and certainly didn't harm, but really the concertina seemed to just recover overnight when I took it out as a side note to a gig I was playing in a balmy outdoors setting. Mysterious stuff, but again I am new to all this. I used to live with an uilleann piper who would make a point of doing this boiling water thing, so I picked up that habit there. He sounded good :) 

Ruairi

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Central heating can wreak havoc, but it is also worth while remembering that woods were not seasoned as we season (dry) woods today. Green wood has about 80 to 95% water by weight, air dried wood has about 20%. Kiln dried is 6 to 9% water by weight. The wood used would have been air dried. As wood dries it shrinks, cracks and twists. Action boards are thin and made of single sheets, you can see shrinkage away from the action box casing or cracking through neighbouring pad holes. The concertina woodwork may not be as well seasoned as you might expect, especially dense hard woods, ebony, rosewood, mahogany etc. Air Con can be far worse than central heating, A.C. reduces humidity (if set up that way) 

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OK, so some advice, please.

 

I have a 1980s Dickinson/Wheatstone concertina (a 46-key Hayden). My house is heated with radiators in each room. In response to this thread, I went out and bought a hygrometer. Right now it is measuring the humidity in the room where I keep the concertina as 38%. I keep the instrument in an airtight Pelican Storm Case.

 

Any suggestions? Should I leave well enough alone? Should I humidify the room and leave the case open when I’m not using it? Should I humidify the case and keep it closed?

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The only downside to having no central heating, and therefore no dry atmosphere, so more cooling moisture can be, and this goes for all woodwork; Woodworm!

Hopefully would not affect certain woods.. and extreme case usually on furniture, thicker woods etc..

I know because I have treated it several times myself.

 

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Posted (edited)

David, I'd say 38% is not ideal but rather, on the low side of OK.

 

For me, in New York City with central steam heat in my home, I've measured humidity levels as low as 8% in the dead of winter. But not inside my climate controlled concertina cabinet where I have seasonal electric humidifiers and de-humidifiers keeping it around 50% year 'round. The waxed-in reed frames don't much care, but the dovetail slotted traditional concertina reed shoes have stopped their yearly fluctuation between either squeezing and buzzing or rattling and flattening since I plugged in my big concertina case that keeps the humidity constant.

Edited by Jody Kruskal
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The only problem is that you have to feed it distilled water in the winter and empty the reservoir it in the summer. It does take some vigilant weekly maintainenananananance to keep things stable. Still, worth the trouble for me.

 

The other thing I like to do is to re-seat the end-plate screws from time to time. I back them off and then bring them back up to a gentile finger tight level of torque. I believe this relieves humidity related pressures from swelling or contracting wood.

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11 hours ago, d.elliott said:

Kiln dried is 6 to 9% water by weight.

 

It depends on the kiln drying process; they generally use steam to control the rate of drying, final moisture content, and avoid case hardening and cracking. It is my understanding that North American timber suppliers typically dry their wood to a lower moisture content than European ones, though this may vary depending on the climate of the local area the wood is being sold to.

 

11 hours ago, d.elliott said:

Air Con can be far worse than central heating, A.C. reduces humidity (if set up that way) 

 

I have a "swamp cooler" (evaporative air conditioner) in the workshop to prevent it turning into a kiln on hot summer days. It's not very effective at cooling but it does keep the humidity up.

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Is there more problems in this way, in terms of humidity, or excessive heat, maybe on the wood in different parts of the world?  In US must have different climate effect on your instruments; whereas over here UK. ( And North of country).. could be longer periods of moisture in air. All effect timbers in some way.

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When Wim Wakker supplied my G-minor/D-minor Anglo, he told me to keep the humidity under 40% by means of silica gel or a humidifier as necessary, and monitored by a hygrometer, though "Over time, the instrument will become less sensitive, and will adjust to higher humidity levels." I did get a hygrometer which I hoped could be fitted inside the case but it didn't fit and I didn't get around to finding a smaller one. I do have a hygrometer in my hall, and despite central heating the humidity in my house is seldom much below 40%. I have kept the concertina in its case with silica gel most of the time.

 

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2 hours ago, SIMON GABRIELOW said:

Is there more problems in this way, in terms of humidity, or excessive heat, maybe on the wood in different parts of the world?  In US must have different climate effect on your instruments; whereas over here UK. ( And North of country).. could be longer periods of moisture in air. All effect timbers in some way.

 

Yes, areas that have wide/rapid seasonal humidity changes are particularly hard on things made from solid wood.

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I cannot stress this enough: Do not put a humidifier in your case! I have seen reeds virtually destroyed by doing this. Rusted, not just with surface rust, but with deep pitted rust. If you are concerned, buy a Storm Case by Pelican and keep your instrument in it when not playing it. They are 100% airtight! I have been playing concertina for over 40 years: 20 years as a repairer/player and 20+ years as a maker/player. I had a Dipper for 20 years and kept it on the mantle. I keep the Heritage instrument I made for myself on the mantle, as well. No problem! the instruments I saw most problems were antique instruments like Lachenal Anglos and Jones Anglos. The quality of wood used made the most difference. I never saw a Lachenal Anglo without warped reed pans, but I never saw a Jeffires so inflicted! The choice of wood by the maker and its preparation made (makes) all the difference. BTW, I don't have a functioning humidifier on my gas furnace.

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Another thing occurred to me, reading about our humidity worries, is that it may be beyond the interior setting storage that could affect wood; it's the general environment.

My example is one extreme.. a small property swamped by thickly grown garden, full with bushes, and trees, and grass; often criticised by the errant opportunist passing so called "tree surgeon" ( wanting to chop trees down)!

But there again, it is a 'micro climate'.. as the saying goes; cooler in summer, and partly insulated I. Winter; consequently the interior is often shaded from extremes.

This would keep all objects stored inside more balanced in terms of humidity an the like.

I am not saying you should buy your concertina a plant as a friend, ( in terms of a house plant), only that total environment can contribute to the 'health' of both man, and instrument!

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14 hours ago, Jody Kruskal said:

The only problem is that you have to feed it distilled water in the winter and empty the reservoir it in the summer. It does take some vigilant weekly maintainenananananance to keep things stable. Still, worth the trouble for me.

 

The other thing I like to do is to re-seat the end-plate screws from time to time. I back them off and then bring them back up to a gentile finger tight level of torque. I believe this relieves humidity related pressures from swelling or contracting wood.

Jody, that's good to knonononononononow :)

But on a serious note, can I just clarify that you're saying that the tension/tightness of the end screws is that relevant to helping with expanding/contracting frames? Are they not at risk of being stripped if they're not sufficiently tight? And I don't mean really tight, but just more so than you mention? Or is it the opposite case? I'm returning to my natural state of confusion with this instrument....

Thanks

Ruairi

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As I think Greg Jowaisas has pointed out in the course of these discussions, it's not only the humidity in the case that matters, but the humidity in the room the concertina is played in. In an overly dry room, your just sucking dry air into the innards with every expansion of the bellows!

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6 minutes ago, Mike Franch said:

As I think Greg Jowaisas has pointed out in the course of these discussions, it's not only the humidity in the case that matters, but the humidity in the room the concertina is played in. In an overly dry room, your just sucking dry air into the innards with every expansion of the bellows!

And, of course, we often have no control over the conditions in the rooms we play in.

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